VA won’t release final report on Temple abuse and corruption probe


VA says release of report will interfere with OIG investigation, which could result in criminal charges.

Final report exonerated at least one official recommended for discipline in preliminary report.

Board report found vets forced to perform labor for VA bosses and scheme to profit from fraudulent purchases.

The Department of Veterans Affairs on Thursday refused to release documents that might explain why at least one high-ranking VA official was exonerated after agency investigators initially named him as participating in a wide-ranging scheme at its Temple campus to defraud the VA and take advantage of vulnerable veterans.

Two weeks ago, an American-Statesman report detailed the preliminary results of an internal administrative board’s investigation, which found years of mistreatment of veterans undergoing substance abuse treatment. The abuse included forcing the veterans to work at the homes of VA officials, and an attempt to profit from fraudulent purchase orders and questionable contracts.

READ: Investigation finds corruption, intimidation at Temple VA campus

At least one employee, VA motor pool supervisor Oarrin Nash, was fired as a result of the board’s report, which called for administrative action against half dozen employees. In an interview with the Statesman, Nash denied any wrongdoing and said he had no knowledge of illicit financial activities.

Investigators also concluded that VA Police Chief Thomas Carnes had intimidated veterans who testified as part of the inquiry, and that he was one of the bosses who had received personal labor from struggling veterans enrolled in a work program designed to give them the skills and confidence needed to find work in the outside world. The VA maintains its own police force.

But Central Texas VA Director Christopher Sandles, who initiated the investigation after being appointed to the region’s top position earlier this year, told the Statesman that a final version of the board’s report, which featured additional interviews with witnesses, cleared Carnes.

In an email to VA employees in advance of the Statesman’s story, Sandles said the draft report’s conclusions were “substantively changed” in the final version.

The newspaper requested the final version of the internal investigation through the Freedom of Information Act in October. But in a letter denying the request, VA privacy officials said release of the report would interfere with an ongoing investigation by the VA’s Office of Inspector General, which could result in criminal charges.

Those investigators are believed to be looking into the report’s findings that employees at the motor pool had funneled business to a small Killeen firm that the administrative board said made at least $400,000 by padding purchases with 30 percent surcharges. In all, the preliminary report found, more than $1.3 million was “funneled through” the business, Whitetail Industrial Parts and Service, in recent years.

Following the Statesman’s initial story, U.S. Rep. John Carter, the Round Rock Republican who represents the Temple area, demanded the VA send him copy of a “comprehensive final report” on the situation in Temple and give him a full briefing on “the VA’s plan of action to right the wrongs done to our veterans.”

The congressman is scheduled to meet with Sandles on Friday, according to his office.

Veterans in the Temple VA’s Compensated Work Program told investigators that they were verbally abused for years while working at the VA motor pool and grounds crew, and detailed frequent theft of VA equipment and being dispatched to the homes of VA officials to perform yard work. Several said they cleaned and repaired the personal vehicles of VA bosses and their family members.

One veteran told investigators the employees in the motor pool were “like the mafia.” “Just their way of covering stuff up for each other. This has been going for six, seven, eight years and nothin’ ever done about it,” the man said, according to the board’s report.

The manager of the Temple VA’s vocational program said that many veterans suffered relapses or left the program after their experiences at the motor pool and said that nearly 50 complaints about Nash over a decade were ignored by his supervisors.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Local

Cold front to bring rain, cooler temperatures to Austin
Cold front to bring rain, cooler temperatures to Austin

Any rain is good rain in Austin, as long as it doesn’t fall too fast, forecasters say — and it likely won't on Wednesday as a weak cold front comes into Central Texas near the end of a particularly wet month.   The cold front moving from the west into the area could produce showers and thunderstorms through Thursday, National...
Hiking cost of entry fees attempts to address city’s ailing pool system
Hiking cost of entry fees attempts to address city’s ailing pool system

Starting next week, the price to take a dip in a city of Austin pool will rise. On Monday, adult residents will start paying $5 — or $2 more — to enter Barton Springs Pool and all other city pools. Juniors aged 12 to 17 will pay $3, and children from 1 to 11 will pay $2. Both figures represent a $1 increase. Senior residents will pay $2...
UT investigating Sen. Charles Schwertner after sexual misconduct claim
UT investigating Sen. Charles Schwertner after sexual misconduct claim

The University of Texas is investigating an allegation that state Sen. Charles Schwertner sent a sexually explicit image and text message to a graduate student he met at an on-campus event this summer, three senior UT officials with knowledge of the investigation told the American-Statesman. If the allegation is deemed true, the university would consider...
Driver hits, critically injures pedestrian near Guadalupe, 29th streets
Driver hits, critically injures pedestrian near Guadalupe, 29th streets

A driver hit and injured a pedestrian near Guadalupe and 29th streets Tuesday afternoon, Austin police said. The man, estimated to be in his 30s, was hospitalized with critical, life-threatening injuries, Austin-Travis County EMS officials said.  The driver stayed at the scene after hitting the man, police said.  Police responded at 3:53...
Report: Church that opposes gay marriage can still use AISD center
Report: Church that opposes gay marriage can still use AISD center

Amid pressure from conservatives, the Austin school district will continue allowing Georgetown-based Celebration Church to rent the district’s Performing Arts Center for Sunday service, according to church officials. “We are proud to support the excellent work of the AISD and are thankful that all community organizations like Celebration...
More Stories